Not new to controversy, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sangeet Singh Som on Monday raised many eyebrows by calling Taj Mahal a blot on Indian culture and history. His comments came days after the Uttar Pradesh government dropped Taj Mahal from the state tourism booklet. Som said, “Many people were pained to see that the Taj Mahal was removed from the list of places (tourist destinations). What type of history? Is this history that the person who built the Taj Mahal imprisoned his father? Do you call it a history when the one who built the Taj targeted many Hindus in Uttar Pradesh and Hindustan?”
Som’s remark evoked sharp criticism from various quarters. Hitting out at Som, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi asked if the government would tell tourists not to visit the monument.
Som is a two time-sitting MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Sardhana constituency. Born to an affluent Thakur family in Alamgeer village (Faridpur) in Meerut district’s Sardhana Tehsil, Som was raised in Khatauli near Muzaffaragar. A popular figure among the Hindu Right, he is also among the accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots.
He has been felicitated with awards like Hindu Hriday Samrat and Mahathakur Sangharshveer by various Hindu religious groups. He was booked for his alleged involvement in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and also rapped under the National Security Act in September 2013.
The report submitted by Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission named him among the top people responsible for inciting the riots. In January this year too, Som was booked for showing video clips of riots to people as part of a documentary but he was later given a clean chit.
In September 2015, he made allegations against the Samajwadi Party and Uttar Pradesh for discriminating on religious grounds in an investigation into Janmashtami clashes. Som has been an anti-beef campaigner for years now. However, a report in The Hindu said he co-founded a firm called Al Dua in 2005-06 and was associated with it till around 2008 as director. The firm is a large scale exporter of halal meat. On the website, Al Dua’s product portfolio includes beef from buffalo. The company exported halal buffalo meat, lamb meat, goat meat and hides.
On Monday, Som flared up a controversy by saying that the heritage monument was built by traitors and was a blot on Indian culture. However, the BJP distanced itself from Som’s comment calling it his personal opinion. The Yogi Adityanath government in BJP claimed that the monument was a part of our proud heritage.